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'Kashmir needs compassion, not packages'

August 09, 2010 08:15 IST
After two decades of armed militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, only good governance could have reaffirmed people's faith in the system. A vigorous dialogue should be held between New Delhi and the people agitating there. New Delhi needs to understand the aspirations of the people of the state. Saifuddin Soz, the chief of the state unit of the Congress -- a key ally of the National Conference-led government -- concedes to Aditi Phadnis that things have gone wrong in the state. Edited excerpts:

What is your reading of the current situation in Kashmir?

I think the situation is retrievable but you have to have action-oriented programmes. What Kashmir needs is much more than packages for economic well-being -- compassion. You must remember that youngsters there have grown up in an atmosphere of violence. You have to understand this to manage the unrest. It is possible to reach them (the youngsters).

I had suggested that an all-party delegation of MPs visit the bereaved families, understand their difficulties, and the same group then meet the governor, the chief minister and civil society and then form its opinion. The people of Jammu and Kashmir will also be comforted by the thought that the government and people of India are reaching out to them.

Elections were held in the state in late 2008. You decided to partner the National Conference in forming the government. You have ministers in the government. How have things come to such a pass and don't you feel you are tainted by association?

After two decades of armed militancy, people have also suffered in the cross-fire. In this situation, there is only one institution that could have reaffirmed their faith in the system -- good governance. Frankly speaking, there has been some deficit, some shortfall in governance. But I would not lay all the blame at the door of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

So how much of the blame would you lay -- five per cent? 10 per cent?

I will not quantify it. There are many factors, many actors to blame for the current situation. But I must admit that actors and the government have spent too much time being involved in situations that were not that important.

For instance?

Roundtable talks were held. Only some of the decisions were implemented. Others should also have been put in place.

Every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir is a victim of corruption. If your child is arrested under the Public Safety Act, he can be put away for two years -- unless you can pay a bribe. Everything seems to have a price.

I was coming to that. In one respect, I feel some politicians gave advice to Omar Abdullah that favoured status quo. So, the system has not been able to take cognisance of corruption.

What does status quo mean?

No action has been taken against corruption. That has given another dimension to the strife. Youngsters who are watching this have lost respect for institutions.

You have conceded that the government has failed. What are you going to do to correct this?

We have to do something politically. I don't believe in tailor-made solutions. A vigorous dialogue should be held between New Delhi and the people agitating there. New Delhi needs to understand the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There is a perception that the integrity of the state is also important.

If that is so, you must take into account the aspirations of all the three regions — Leh-Ladakh, Jammu and the Kashmir valley -- while talking to them.

The Prime Minister has called an all-party meeting on Tuesday. What do you expect?

We must hope everyone puts their best foot forward.
Aditi Phadnis
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